The Abbotsford Pilots’ first game of the regular season was a hit, but the sequel was a bit of a dud.
On Thursday, the local junior B hockey club hit the road to take on the Richmond Sockeyes in a match-up of the last two teams to win the Western Canadian title. Abbotsford won the Keystone Cup in 2012, and Richmond followed in their footsteps last spring.
The Pilots ended up grinding out a dramatic 2-1 overtime triumph. Kolten Grieve’s goal staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead at 4:53 of the first period, and goalie Zachary Station made that hold up until midway through the third, when Liam Lawson notched the equalizer on the power play.
In OT, Joel Atkinson got credit for the winner when Ryan Parmar’s point shot deflected in off his shin pad.
The following evening, the Pilots returned to MSA Arena for their home opener, but laid an egg against the Aldergrove Kodiaks, falling 9-4.
The Kodiaks got to Abby starting goalie Luke Stripp for eight goals on 23 shots, and added another on Station, who came on for a brief relief stint late in the second period before Stripp went back out for the third. Atkinson, Dylan Kooner, Eric Wieking and Jared Virtanen scored the Pilots’ goals, while Scott McHaffie’s two goals paced the Kodiaks, who went 4-for-4 on the power play.
“If you asked me in two months (after a loss like this), I’d be concerned,” Pilots coach Jim Cowden said. “But right now, I’m not too concerned whatsoever. We’ll bounce back.
“It’s a long season, and we’ve only practiced once with our systems. Us as coaches, we have a lot to do, like we do every year.”
In the silver linings department, Cowden was pleased with the poised play of young defencemen James Jerczynski and Joel Balzer after fellow blueliners Parmar and Kellan Lavallee departed with early injuries.
The Pilots are back in action on Tuesday, when they visit the Delta Ice Hawks (7:30 p.m., Ladner Leisure Centre). The next home game is Friday vs. the North Vancouver Wolf Pack (7:30 p.m., MSA Arena).